Bob Dylan – Christmas In The Heart

Bob Dylan - Christmas In The HeartBob DylanChristmas In The Heart (Sony)

You will get no bigger supporter of Bob Dylan‘s vocal talent than from me. In fact, I use it as a litmus test for someone’s rock and roll IQ. His voice—regardless of the era—remains one of music’s finest interpreters, its phrasing a huge influence on vocalists even while challenging the notion of what constitutes a beautiful sounding voice.

So imagine how hard it is for me to admit that the main problem with Christmas In The Heart has nothing to do with the idea of Dylan considering an entire album of holiday material, or even with the decision to keep the arrangements close to tradition. No, the problem with Christmas In The Heart is that it sounds like it’s voiced by an inebriated uncle who just happens to be sitting on a large fortune and, because of risking a huge inheritance loss from offending him, no one has the good sense of telling Uncle Bob to sit these numbers out.

There’s no new interpretations here and there’s no deviation from the original script, even when that script is frayed and yellowed around the edges. So once you’ve settled in for a nice evening of Christmas standards it’s Dylan’s own scraggy voice that will have you searching your home for the feral tomcat that seemingly strayed inside looking for leftovers.

Even when the road is paved with good intentions and Dylan’s band does an admirable job at bringing the music close to a simpler time, nothing can erase the fact that his voice is a continued distraction throughout Christmas In The Heart.

There are a pair of real surprises, namely the Hawaiian-tinged “Christmas Island” and the rollicking polka “Must Be Santa” are certifiably awesome, with the latter being one of the most honest songs that Dylan has performed, when you consider how the genre was probably routinely heard when Zimmy grew up in the upper Midwest.

It’s the type of record laced with enough Eisenhower nostalgia that most Boomers would eat it up. But at the moment Bob opens up his shot pipes, they’ll realize that these aren’t the standards they remember and they’re done in a manner they’ll surely want to forget.

Video: Bob Dylan – “Little Drummer Boy” (not embeddable)

Video: Bob Dylan – “Must Be Santa” (not embeddable)

21 thoughts on “Bob Dylan – Christmas In The Heart”

  1. just my opinion: bobs voice is so touching on this album that i, an agnostic/atheist, was even moved by the sad vulnerability and fear of the Little Drummer Boy. Must be Santa was a hoot. I’ll be Home for Christmas: heartfelt and heartbreaking. Christmas Blues, superb. All the songs: wonderful.

  2. Played this album at least 75 times since I bought it. Since I have all these songs by several others I compared them. Bob does just fine & better than most. Are you sure your first paragraph was truthful?

  3. Not only do I question your honesty, Mr. Totale, I question the reported earnings on your 2007 & 2008 tax filings. I also question the assertion that you’ve remained faithful to your wife and the number of times you went to church this year.

  4. Best Christmas album I’ve ever heard. The juxtaposition of the songs we’ve all known so long that we don’t even hear them anymore; the great western-swing arrangements; and most of all, the remnants of the voice of His Bobness–all add up to a remarkable experience. My wife & I have learned to appreciate these songs all over again, as if they were new. So, I respectfully dissent.

  5. I love it.

    This is Bob doing what he does best – teaching us to listen.

    And he’s enjoying it. His enthusiasm is infectious. I never buy Xmas albums but I made an exception for this – glad I did.

    And people get fed. Yet again Bob knocks ’em over. Merry Xmas, Mr Dylan.

  6. Best Christmas album since Elvis’. Most Christmas albums suck but Dylan has worked magic on these songs and brought them back home.

  7. When I first heard some snippets, I shuddered at some of those rough sounds. But then…I heard it all…and I got the feeling…that is always there with Mr. D., and it grew and grew, so what else is new? And then I thought to myself, if rough worked with Satchmo, why not Bob? And he can still do velvet too. “Awesome” was one critic’s last word on this album.

  8. Love this album, Juxtaposition is just what I was thinking.. Diluting the sweetness with that voice….earnestness,Just really love it and thought I wouldn’t.

  9. You must be the first writer I have ever read who said Bob’s voice is less then perfect. Wow. What a unique perspective, Mr. Shakespere.

    I personally love this record! It is textbook Dylan to combine the old and the new.

    And if that’s not enough good cheer, the profits help feed the needy. The 2 related videos are festive and really well done.

    If Bob isn’t ringing your bell, you might try The King Family, Andy Williams or Kenny G. No surprises there!

  10. My personal favorite, I’ll be Home for Christmas”, brought tears to my eyes, no, in truth, it made me cry. This album is a charitable offering, it has something for everyone, but only if they use their ears instead of whining about Bob’s pipes before the first song is out of the box. I’m 67 years old and I’ve been a proud fan and supporter of Bob Dylan’s for 50 years. Like the lady in John Irving’s “Until I Find You”, everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I go my Bob Dylan music travels with me. Having been a fan for so many years, I’ve had a lot of time to listen to that voice as it “matured”, I like to set-up the CD player and listen from beginning to end. Bob Dylan’s older fans have an advantage, and we all have our favorite years, and, if you will listen to his music in the order it was recorded, you’ll hear it as it happens. I think the video, “It must be Santa”, is a riot, I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair, and then I sent it off to everyone in my address book! Happy Holidays to you all!

  11. Listening to that album gets my pussy all wet. I put it on and then slide my hand down past my belly ring and into my throbbing hole. Then I slide my hand out and lick all the gooey sticky good stuff off my fingers. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  12. No Tara, call Me Phil. You can call him “Bob” for now. He’ll come around, don’t you worry. And by the time he does, the poison will have already done it’s work.

  13. This is a gift from one of the three kings. Left in our stereo that we might have one last shot at actually sharing a common Christmas spirit. Its from a lost time here again like a ghost. Enjoy it play it share it and move on into the New Year.


  14. if one considers this a charitable tribute album one might just rethink your opinion and perhaps if one would just take the time to listen one might just understand what this is all about

  15. It’s (too) easy to make fun of this recording, but the other night, listening to it as background music, I really came to appreciate it for what it is. I like the arrangements, I like the voice. I won’t convince the rest of my family, but that’s their problem.

  16. Ohhhhh my God Derek. My sister and I like soooooo loved that Hanson album when I was like 5. But I’m like 18 now. Can you like sing like Bob Dylan?

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